For the first time since its inception eight years ago, the US $325,000 Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon will be run on January 16 without the blessings of the Athletics Federation of India.
"They have been invited but there's what I will call a lack of response. But the marathon has the gold label status from the IAAF (international athletics body)," said race director Hugh Jones at a media conference in Mumbai on Tuesday.
The AFI has kept away from the event this year following a dispute over payment of capitation fee to it from race organisers Procam International.
Jones, who is also the general secretary of the Association of International Marathon and Distance Running and a former winner of the London Marathon, will oversee Sunday's gruelling race, which has attracted a strong field that includes Kenya's Delhi Commonwealth Games champion and two-time winner John Kelai.
The event's technical delegate is Dave Cundy, who will officiate in Mumbai for the first time after having conducted the Delhi half marathon and Bangalore 10k events in the past.
The men's and women's winners of the gruelling 42km event will take home US $36,000 each.
Among the top Indians taking part in the half marathon are Asian Games medal winners Kavita Raut, a 10,000m specialist, and steeplechaser Sudha Singh, who won gold in the Guangzhou Games in November 2010.
Last year's leading Indian finisher Binning Lyngkhoi and second and third-best home country runners Ram Singh Yadav and third-place finisher Arvind Yadav are among the field of elite male athletes in the full marathon which will commence and end at the iconic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus.
Jones expects "improved timings" this year, based on the temperatures in Mumbai presently. "Last year the race day was hot," he added.
"The elite athletes are capable of adapting to conditions on the race day," he pointed out.
Jones said the race route has undergone "minor changes" and for the second time in its history the participants will run on the picturesque Bandra-Worli Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link.
"The Sea Link will be used for the second time in the event. There are minor changes here and there, with some sections tweaked to improve them," he said.
The start time of the run for the masses (amateurs) has been moved forward to 0615 IST.
The marathon for the elite runners will commence at 0740 IST while the half marathon will start at 0615 IST.
There are also events for wheelchair-bound participants, senior citizens and corporates (dream run).
Commonwealth Games champion Kelai, who won the event in 2007 and 2008, returns to lead the men's elite athlete field which has 10 men who have clocked 2 hours, 10 seconds or below in the marathon in recent events, making this year's field the strongest ever.
Ethiopia's Bizunesh Urgesa will defend her women's crown and leads a similarly strong field that will attempt to clock a sub-2:30s winning time. The women's field too has 10 athletes who have personal bests of 2:30s or less.